There are many false claims about what yoga will and won’t do for pregnancy and motherhood. Pregnancy yoga won’t determine whether or not you have a natural birth, a caesarean birth or anything in between. Yoga won’t make you a miraculous super-mum able to be eternally peaceful. Pregnancy, birth and the unique motherhood journey are all events that unfold very much outside of our control. The biggest gift that practicing yoga will provide you is a way to face and accept everything that comes from being a mother. Yoga offers the loving arms to hold you when things are tough, the strength to endure sleepless nights and a space to remember how amazing you truly are! Here are a few ways I used yoga to handle some of the tougher moments I’ve encountered whilst pregnant and as a new mum.
1. Pranayama (Breathing) My baby needed surgery. It was a difficult situation – but I knew what to do to give myself support. I used my breathing techniques as a shelter to create calm. While it was still such an emotional time, I wasn’t just being blown around in a storm of that emotion. I could come back into myself and create moments of stillness with breath. At a time when circumstances were so out of my control I found I still had the power to help balance myself.
2. Chanting and Positive Intentions As a yoga teacher, you might expect me to be really “into” chanting! And yes, there were certainly a few beautiful Sanskrit chants which nurtured my tired and aching body and lifted my spirits. But even simple intentions and positive phrases like “this too shall pass” or “breathing in, breathing out” were of immense value – especially late at night with a baby who hadn’t yet learnt the difference between night and day.n3. Relaxation If you are a person (like me) who could never sleep during the day, then deep relaxation is definitely for you! Resting while your baby rests; even if you don’t actually sleep is crucial. Sleep deprivation is awful; it has a huge physical and emotional effect on the body. Unfortunately, there is the temptation (or guilt or expectation) about “getting things done” whilst pregnant and when you are a new mum. Yoga practices help with relaxation by teaching you the difference between feeling tense and letting go. Tuning into the need to unwind and relax is one of the most important lessons you can teach your baby, and an amazing gift to yourself.
4. Being in the Moment
Throughout all the challenges and new things to learn, learn to stay present and enjoy the moments! The first flutters of the baby moving, hiccups in the womb, the first touches of birth, smiles and baby fingers around your hand are all amazing moments. Enjoy the beautiful moments, especially if things have been a challenge. Pregnancy and motherhood are not smooth sailing all the time, nor are they guaranteed to be. By keeping focused on the present (rather than dwelling on the past or being impatient for the future), you can remove many of the pressures and expectations.
5. Asana – The Physical PosturesnCarrying a baby around in your womb for nearly ten months is a huge physical undertaking. Your body will get tired and sore at some point. By learning and actually practicing the different asanas (physical postures) you can help relieve some of the aches and pains. I was surprised after birth how much I needed asana. The challenges of breastfeeding and holding a baby all day created soreness and stiffness in my shoulders and neck that I simply was not prepared for. But take it easy, with your asana practice, your body is ever evolving and changing and sensations in the body may be quite different from day to day.
During pregnancy, we spend considerable time focusing on the health and wellbeing of our babies, being conscious of what we eat, drink and how we exercise. It’s logical to be aware that these things can affect our unborn baby.
However remember too, that the relaxation and yoga practices that create calm in you as a mother, can instill a calm in your baby’s psyche that goes well beyond their time in the womb. If you’d like to learn how to bring these empowering yoga techniques and perspectives into your experience of pregnancy and birth, then check out my upcoming Pregnancy Yoga Courses. Enjoy the exciting journey ahead. Alison Hilton